Between 12 million and 15 million fishers will have to lose their jobs if development goals are to be met, according to an analysis from researchers at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
That many of the world’s fish stocks are seriously depleted is not in doubt. But the sheer scale of the task of rebuilding these stocks is laid bare in a paper out today in Fish and Fisheries.
Under targets established by the World Summit on Sustainable Development, countries should ensure fisheries are at levels producing the ‘maximum sustainable yield’ (MSY) by 2015. A team of FAO researchers based in Rome looked at the benefits and pressures on fish stocks and at the changes needed in these to hit the target.
They estimate that 68% of stocks were at or above MSY in 2008 and that “the 2015 target is unlikely to be met”.
Further, they estimate that it will take a 36–43% reduction in the amount of fishing undertaken in 2008 to restore overfished stocks. This is equivalent to 12 million–15 million fishers losing their jobs. If this reduction is achieved by the common method of buying back fishing boats, it would cost between US$96 billion and $358 billion.
This may seem an extraordinary amount of money, but it would also increase production in the long term by 16.5 million tonnes and increase annual profit by $32 billion, in addition to bringing benefits to the ecosystems in question.
“Our results show that the potential benefits of achieving the … goal far outstrip the likely costs,” write Yimin Ye and his colleagues.